Phil Ivey v Crockfords

A High Court judge has ruled against Phil Ivey in his edge sorting dispute with Crockfords Casino in London. (Image: bbc.co.uk)

Phil Ivey v Crockfords is all over, and Ivey, who isn’t often a loser when it comes to gambling, finds himself in that position today. The High Court in London found in favor of Crockfords Casino in Ivey’s edge sorting case, saying that the casino was not obligated to pay Ivey the winnings he accrued through his high-stakes baccarat advantage play.

Judge John Mitting found that Ivey’s method of winning at baccarat amounted to cheating under civil law. The case dates back to August 2012, when Ivey won £7.7 million ($12.38 million) in high-stakes baccarat games over the course of two visits to Crockfords. While the casino gave Ivey back his initial stake, they refused to pay him his winnings, and the two sides failed to reach a settlement outside of court.

Cheating, Even If Ivey Didn’t Realize It

While Judge Mitting acknowledged that Ivey may well have honestly felt that he wasn’t cheating, Mitting still found that his actions did not constitute a legitimate way of playing the game.

“He gave himself an advantage which the game precludes,” Mitting said after the conclusion to the trial. “This is in my view cheating.”

Both the casino and Ivey agree on the events that took place, with the only dispute being whether those events were legitimate gambling activities or a method of cheating. Ivey and an accomplice played a form of baccarat known as punto banco at a private table in the casino. By getting the casino to use a brand of cards known to have imperfections in its cutting pattern, and then getting a dealer to turn some of those cards for supposedly superstitious reasons, Ivey was able to tell from the card backs whether a given card was high or low.

That wasn’t enough to guarantee that Ivey would know the outcome of each hand. However, it did give him a significant advantage over the casino by helping him determine whether he should bet on the banker or player on each hand. Ivey said this was a complex but legitimate advantage play; the casino saw it as simple cheating.

Crockfords “Vindicated” By Ruling

“We attach the greatest importance to our exemplary reputation for fair, honest and professional conduct and today’s ruling vindicates the steps we have taken in this matter,” Crockfords said in a statement.

Ivey, on the other hand, expressed disappointment at the ruling.

“It is not in my nature to cheat,” Ivey said through a spokesman. “I believe what we did was nothing more than exploit Crockford’s failures. Clearly the judge did not agree.”

The ruling may have hinged on exactly how far Ivey had to go to exploit those failures. Mitting pointed out that Ivey gained his edge “by using the croupier as his innocent agent or tool,” essentially getting the dealer to help him work around the normal procedures of the game without realizing it.

Crockfords also expressed disappointment that the case caused them to discuss their business with Ivey in public.

“It is our policy not to discuss our clients’ affairs in public and we very much regret that proceedings were brought against us,” a spokesperson for the casino said.

While Ivey was not given permission to immediately able to appeal the ruling, his lawyers will be able to renew their efforts with the Court of Appeals.